I give Mamoru Hosoda's latest film...no rating.
Uh...I...I don't know what to say, other than...well, let me put it this way: for those of you who go on That Guy With The Glasses, remember when Spoony said that Grave of the Fireflies is the greatest film he'll never want to see again? Well...as of now, Wolf Children, to me, is my definition of the greatest film that I never want to see again. Now don't get me wrong, I really REALLY loved this movie! I really do! There's so many good things about it that really make it into not just a great anime movie for anime fans, but a masterpiece that stands on its own two feet, a true representation of visual art, and a true example of GREAT storytelling in a cartoon, which proves that cartoons don't always have to be for kids. I personally loved it, though I can't say that I call it a masterpiece. It's not a masterpiece in my book. That honor goes to The Dog of Flanders. But I still really enjoyed this movie, and I'm sure lots of other people do too! Buuuuut...unfortunately, there are some things in this movie that I feel people really REALLY won't be able to handle, and considering how blatant those things can be, it'll be really hard for people to get past them, even if said things are presented shortly and in a well-intentioned light.
The story is about Hana, who, as a university student, meets a mysterious man and later falls in love with, but he has a secret: he's part wolf. He's descended from a species of wolves that supposedly died long ago. Thankfully, this doesn't bother Hana, but while they don't officially get married, they make love with each other and soon have two children. Unfortunately, one day, the wolf man dies under mysterious circumstances, and Hana is left to raise her children all alone. Raising normal children is one thing, but raising children who manifest their wolf forms at random times is even harder, because if they're seen, people will see them as monsters or guinea pigs they can experiment on. Soon, city life proves to be too hectic for Hana, so she and the children move to the countryside, hoping to evade the discriminatory public eye, but what they find there will really affect how the children will live their lives.
Now, please allow me to fangirl about what I feel is the singular best part of the entire movie: the animation. OH MY FREAKING GOD, the animation in this movie is absolutely sumptuous! There's meticulous amounts of detail in EVERYTHING, from flowers swaying in a breeze to ripples in a water, from characters moving in a fluid and realistic manner to movement of the trees, the company who worked on this really brought everything to life with how much blood, sweat, and tears they threw into the animation for this movie! I can wholeheartedly and audaciously say that I consider this to be the single greatest animation I've ever seen not just in terms of modern anime, but about anime in general, EVER! I'd even be so bold as to say that it's even BETTER than Miyazaki's works! Please don't kill me, Miyazaki and Ghibli fans!!! The soundtrack is beautiful as well, even though I really don't remember any of it.
The characters are, yet again, this movie's strong point. Hana is a great female lead. She's strong, she's strong willed, she's caring, and best of all, she's realistic. it's not surprising to see that she just up and fell in love with some man she met on the street and made love with him as soon as she found out who he really was. People really do that nowadays. Plus, when she has kids, she focuses all her energy into raising them and trying to teach them right, even as things don't always go well on her end. She endures all the joys and hardships of being a parent. Basically, it's a much more serious and more true to life take on that My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode called Baby Cakes, even down to the message and moral. Yeah yeah, I know, a bit of a stupid comparison, I know. Plus, all the main characters are constantly evolving. Hana evolves from a simple college student to a parent who has to put her kids first, Yuki evolves from a bratty, loud, and annoying girl to a reserved and calm girl, and Ame evolves from a weak and shy kid to a very serious and solemn kid. Without revealing any spoilers, growing up and evolution are pretty much the main themes of the show, and boy does it make for great character development.
Now, what do I mean when I say there are things people won't be able to handle in this movie, especially if they're not anime fans? Well, let me explain a little something about myself: I practically NEVER tell people about anime unless they already know about it, as I've had too many unfortunate experiences where I tried to tell people about anime and found that they COMPLETELY took it the wrong way and freaked out over little stuff, and used those little things alone as the main representation of all anime, which made me become really reserved about my hobby. My sister caught me watching episode 2 of Gravitation once, and she freaked out because the characters were gay and told me to not watch it, probably because she thought it was an 18+ sort of thing, which it wasn't. If you want to try getting someone into anime, then Wolf Children...really isn't the anime you should use for that. What does Wolf Children have that might turn Western audiences way off? Plain and simple: a barely disguised sex scene, on screen, uncensored breastfeeding, a full on nipple shot (even though it only lasts for a few seconds and that's it), and rather copious amounts of child nudity. NO, it is NOT a porn movie! These scenes are mostly touching and meant to come off as heartwarming, as these things are what real parents go through. Seriously, what little child didn't run around naked at one point in their lives? But yeah, if you try to show Wolf Children to the wrong people, they'll only focus on those things and probably make a bunch of crude, insensitive sex jokes about it for all time and never stop. Yeah, I know, I'm stupid for taking these things too seriously, but it can happen, people! I got past them, and I'm sure other anime fans will too, but I know for a fact that things like these won't sit well with other people, especially if they're under the misconception that all cartoons are for kids and kids only.
Well, now that I got that elephant out of the room, despite the glaring things that may turn people off right away, I can fully assure you that this is THE great anime movie, a true representation of visual art and how it can really touch people and resonate with them. A true example that cartoons don't have to be for kids, and that animation, for any and all age groups, can really do great things when done well. Why isn't this up there with Miyazaki's masterpieces?! Seriously, if Roger Ebert were still alive, I think he'd really enjoy this movie like he did Grave of the Fireflies.